Busy by astonishing design

| Jul 31, 2003

Busy by astonishing design

Earlier this year, I watched a number of bumblebees droning back and forth over the ground cover in mountain forest near my home in Hokkaido. They were seemingly oblivious to me. Occasionally one would land, and disappear beneath the leaf litter, or go down ...

Humble marvels of nature

| Jul 17, 2003

Humble marvels of nature

The mechanics of flight are beyond me, and I especially can’t imagine how bumblebees can become airborne. Images of a jumbo jet taking off without a runway spring to mind. Each time I see them, bumblebees remind me of banded, animated acorns, whirring on ...

What a week that was

| Jul 3, 2003

What a week that was

It was a week filled with surprises and excitement. What started out as a routine long-haul trip across Hokkaido to the Okhotsk Sea coast led to musings on migration and weird sexual practices, thoughts of Alaska and Siberia, and to sightings of endemic alpine ...

A world rich in avian resources

| Jun 19, 2003

A world rich in avian resources

From time immemorial, wild birds have been important food sources for rural populations. On the remote islands of the Bering Sea, for example, the massive colonies of auklets, puffins and murres are harvested in summer and stored to provide important supplies of nourishment through ...

Winged wonders of nature -- and more

| Jun 5, 2003

Winged wonders of nature -- and more

We humans share the world with perhaps as many as 100,000,000 species, yet among the most conspicuous and best-loved of all these are the mere 10,000 species of birds. Birds are conspicuous, of course, because they are mobile, active, colorful — and because many ...

Targeting nature on a Texas shootout

| May 29, 2003

Targeting nature on a Texas shootout

Texas summons up images of cowboys and longhorn cattle, Western boots and horses, Stetsons, vast ranches, oil and gas — and that Texan drawl. After my first visit there, though, other images also come to mind: an apparently infinite flatness; endless, unzoned urban sprawl; ...

Big-mouth bulbuls time it just right

| May 15, 2003

Big-mouth bulbuls time it just right

Second of two parts Imagine, if you can, an opinion poll of Japanese forest plants. Question: which bird is most important to you? The brown-eared bulbul, or hiyodori, would have to take a bow. On sighting this bird, naturalists may disparagingly remark, “Oh, just ...

Feathered friends of the forest

| May 1, 2003

Feathered friends of the forest

In a passive way, plants have got birds sussed. They use them, abuse them (ever seen a thrush drunk on fermenting apples?) and mess with their digestive systems. Birds are willing pawns, though; brightly colored flowers and gaudy berries send a simple signal to ...

A natural sense of belonging

| Apr 17, 2003

A natural sense of belonging

I pass through the Heidelberg area of Baden-Buerttemberg in southwest Germany several times a year, and though I am transient there, I feel that I have roots — roots that come from a natural connectedness with the earth. The several thousand hectares of land ...

Mistletoe magic

| Apr 3, 2003

Mistletoe magic

I am back in my local wood in Hokkaido yet again. From one spot, I can see the fluffed-out form of a Ural owl sunning itself at the entrance of its day roost, while looking in another direction and a little higher in the ...